Six of the Hottest Young Artists in NYC: Anna Copa Cabanna, Anthony Michael Sneed, Barnaby Whitfield, Molly Crabapple, Nyugen Smith, & Tara McPherson

By Lori Zimmer

June 2011

After that pesky recession, the art world is back on the up and the kids are once again churning out amazing things. I feel so lucky to be surrounded by so many talented people, and choosing just six “hot” artists to feature for PMc Magazine’s June HOT Issue was extremely difficult. Paired down to the easy-on-the-eyes Anna Copa Cabanna, Anthony Michael Sneed, Barnaby Whitfield, Molly Crabapple, Nyugen Smith and Tara McPherson, this group encompasses performance, painting, pastels and poise. Aside from being adorable, they all thoroughly impress me with their driving ambition and subsequent success, while being an absolute joy to be around.  Their work, performances, and projects are helping to re-enliven New York’s art scene (that got a little bland a few years ago–when we all had money).

The Hot Half-Dozen have it all–talent, drive, fun–and me! What more could you ask for.

Special thanks to Molly Crabapple for letting us invade her amazing pre-war loft in the Financial District.

Without further ado, let’s meet these six hot young artists…


Anna Copa Cabanna has the most infectious laugh I have ever heard. She is the type of girl who lights up a room with her cuteness and energy, drawing all eyes on her (a feat for this hot photoshoot!). I remember Anna in the background of many hazy nights over the years–go-go dancing at 60s parties at great places that are now gone, like Rififi and The Tainted Lady, clad in a big blonde wig and leotard. Like many, the Australian native moved to New York with big city acting/singing/dancing dreams, but with an artist’s sensibility. Go-go dancing proved to be her “in,” securing her a place in the nightlife scene. But dancing didn’t give her a voice, so she started going to open mic nights, singing her quirky and sarcastic original songs, about horrible men and wrongdoing. Well received, Anna decided to fuse both of these experiences to craft her real love: the tradition of the 1970s variety show. And thus The Anna Copa Cabanna Show was born. With the show, her creativity is extended in song, choreographed dance, and kitschy costumes (including the Kermit leotard worn for our shoot).

Taking inspiration from The Carol Burnett Show, Sonny and Cher and “entertainers who give EVERYTHING,” like Freddie Mercury, Dolly Parton, Liza and Steve Martin, Anna delivers the same, going above and beyond just playing music, and full force into all around entertainment. And New York notices: her most recent show at Joe’s Pub completely sold out. Anna is the kind of performer that makes New York City great–the raw talent and creativity that defines what this city is all about.

You can catch Anna singing “Under Pressure” at Bowery Ballroom on June 23d for the Loser’s Lounge Queen Tribute show or playing a little rock and roll on guitar at Otto’s Shrunken Head on June 8th in addition to go-go dancing at the likes of Motor City and beyond. This summer she plans to record, and plan the next big Anna Copa Cabanna show for this Christmas.

Check her out at:


When I first met Anthony, through mutual friend and artist, Ian “Kid Zoom” Strange, I could not stop staring at his impossibly perfect teeth. Shortly after we met again at the opening of his solo show, “Hell for Hire,” at the Art Jail space in Chinatown. The show centered on Anthony’s fixation with the pixelated nature of early video games, which is also associated with a childhood accident which permanently disabled his right hand.  Using the crude geometric quality of early Nintendo games, Sneed approached contemporary and historical issues, from the assassination of JFK to September 11th, in graphic, pixelated, bold color. A multi-disciplinary artist, I recently discovered Anthony also dabbled in cult horror film, starring in Frank Henenlotter’s campy Bad Biology. His more recent work deals with shadow and more paired-down geometry, fueling his obsession with color and gradients. He has also printed these new artworks into sheet stickers, which can be found all over Williamsburg.

There are no stupid questions according to Anthony. He is a person who isn’t afraid to ask the little questions on the quest to seek the roots of his inspirations.  “Why watch Jackass when I can watch the original Buster Keaton movie?” This process gives him a base to let his thoughts run wild.

Anthony’s next color-rich solo show is opening July 9th at San Francisco’s Shooting Gallery. He’s working with another one of my faves, Judith Supine, on an epic installation slated for later this year, before he gets back into the cult film world, shooting a full length feature he co-wrote with Frank Henenlotter in New Orleans set for November.

Check him out at:


I totally stalked Barnaby into being my friend. Last December in Miami, I saw him sauntering about at the Scope Art Fair. Intrigued, I found we had mutual friends in Paul Bruno of Dirty Magazine, and invited myself into his world. Barnaby is a total head-turner, always looking impeccable, impossibly lean and tall, his giant lips competing with his incredible style. His sarcastic nature is a match for mine, whether it is exchanging witty banter at 5 am or mistaking a pushpin for a blueberry (and subsequently eating it), his hilarity makes him my new favorite life of the party.

And his work is jaw-droppingly incredible! He has the ability to make the grotesque beautiful, and the beautiful frighteningly grotesque. Barnaby’s work is that of a man who has lived a thousand lifetimes in his young life–small town mayor’s son, opera singer, European Comme de Garcons model, Miami punk club kid–each life screams at you, while co-existing in his gorgeously vivid pastels. The resulting pieces are highly sexualized, with nods to traditional portraiture, coupled with all-too-real flawed skin-tones, often with the artist as subject. Deeply personal and deeply disturbing, Barnaby’s uses making art as a form of therapy. I asked him why he doesn’t use paint and canvas, since there is a ceiling on the market value of pastel on paper. I love his answer: he is not concerned with fair market value of his work, but uses pastel on paper because he prefers the delicate nature and ephemerality of the medium.

Barnaby just sent off several pieces for a group show at Gallery Poulsen in Copenhagen. He is also represented by Stux Gallery in New York. Irvine Contemporary in Washington DC and Spinello in Miami.

Check him out at:


Molly Crabapple lives in Paris in the 1890s. At least that is where I was transported when I entered her pre-War full–floor loft in the Financial District. Full of bay windows, tapestries, vintage furniture, artwork from herself and her boyfriend Fred Harper, and one shy cat, this is Molly’s headquarters, where she can be found in a corset and full skirt, flopped on her bed, taking hits from a giant hookah, while Edith Piaf blasts in the background. The only element that breaks the illusion is the presence of her smartphone or computer–being not only an artist, but a business woman, she is constantly communicating, Skyping, and tweeting to maintain the empire she has built for herself.

Molly began as an artist’s model, while doing illustration of her own. Having many friends in the burlesque world, she got an idea in 2006 to fuse these three things into a live drawing event, complete with models, and the elaborate costuming of burlesque. And thus, Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School was born. Over the past 5 years, Dr. Sketchy’s has flourished, with satellite events happening worldwide. Molly has been whisked away to events in most of the major and exotic cities spanning the globe. Her illustration has evolved from its pornographic roots to include circuses, dancers, performers, Victorian costuming and fantasy. She has penned many comics, and is currently crunching a graphic novel about a carnival, to be published by McMillan in 2013.

Molly is one smart cookie, realizing that she embodies her brand–her persona is equally important as her art and Dr. Sketchy’s. A true entrepreneur, her Victorian manner of dress, and eloquence also lands her as guest speaker in events and conferences around the globe. She has managed to market herself, while making a fantasy vintage world her reality–and the girl is still years from age 30.

Check her out at:


Nyugen Smith is new on my radar. My friend, artist Ian Kuali’I, is my art barometer–he knows what I like and constantly curates “must-meets” for me, and thus sent me Nyugen’s Bundle Houses, which he knew from the Jersey City scene. Nyugen has been heavily involved in the Jersey City art world, working, living and curating there for many years.

Nyugen is a story teller. His work focuses largely on our state of affairs, fusing history with present day. He dissects social constructs, political climates and the affects of colonialism, fueled by his upbringing in Trinidad and its history of colonization (from Spanish to British before independence). With his Bundle House project, he constructs shelters of found objects in Jersey City, questioning “what if this is what we were left with?”–a possibility he feels is valid for even cosmopolitan cities like New York and Jersey City. Ironically, making this art triggered him to seek further inspiration–spurring an interest in the history of the conflict in the Congo, Freedom Fighters and Patrice Lumumba. Yet, his work feels optimistic. It is about survival, and dealing with the consequences of our mistakes, while moving on.

Nyugen has shown at galleries and the Jersey City Museum. He currently has a solo show called “To the Kapitol” (everybody come), which runs until June 24th at the SOLO(s) PROJECT HOUSE in Newark, with an artist talk on June 9th at 7pm that will be streamed live here. You can also check him at the Studio Museum in Harlem on Sunday, July 24th with a Hands on Public Art Program.

Check him out at:


My girl Tara, my former roommate, is one of the easiest artists I have ever worked with. She has all the creativity of an artist, but the sensibilities and organization of a business woman. She is probably the busiest person I know, but at the same time the most prolific. When we lived together last year, she was in New York for a total of 2 months of it–traveling from Mexico to Brazil to England to Japan to California to Hawaii, partying, doing signings, shows, and, most impressively, painting for a solo show while on the road, toting panel and paints in her suitcase.

Her work spans the world from comics to fine art, dragging a net of a zillion fans in her wake. Paintings, comics, rock posters, and sculpture–Tara wants to make sure fans at every level can take home a piece of her work. Her third monograph is due out soon, which will likely include a book tour. If that isn’t enough, she also teaches in the illustration department at SVA.

Her latest passion is a joint venture with her amazing boyfriend, Sean Leonard, who is one of the founders of Zero Friends. This past April she turned her Williamsburg studio into a store/gallery. Called the Cotton Candy Machine, the store features prints, posters, merchandise and a brand new t-shirt line all emblazoned with her signature pink and turquoise palette girls, bunnies and characters.  Cotton Candy Machine also has a small gallery, so Tara can satisfy her curatorial side. The first exhibition, “Tiny Trifecta,” which featured tiny works by over 100 artists for $100 each.

Although she lives the life (traveling the world, painting, teaching, and owning her own store), she lives for the simple things (like ramen at Ippudo, her bunny Jupiter, and amazing friends spanning the globe).

Check her out at: Tara

Anna Copa Cabanna, Anthony Michael Sneed, Barnaby Whitfield, Molly Crabapple, Nyugen Smith, & Tara McPherson by Lori Zimmer

Written by Lori Zimmer

Photography by Jonathan Grassi

Addition Photography by Jackie Roman / Courtesy of Anna Copa Cabanna

Design by Marie Havens


Cover/Page 1:

Barnaby Whitfield, Anna Copa Cabanna, Nyugen Smith, Molly Crabapple, Anthony Michael Sneed, & Tara McPherson, at Molly Crabapple’s studio,
New York City, May 22, 2011, Photography by Jonathan Grassi

Page 2:

Anna Copa Cabanna, at Molly Crabapple’s studio, New York City, May 22, 2011, Photography by Jonathan Grassi

Page 3:

Anna Copa Cabanna show, 2011, Photography by Jackie Roman / Courtesy of Anna Copa Cabanna

Page 4:

Anna Copa Cabanna show, 2011, Photography by Jackie Roman / Courtesy of Anna Copa Cabanna

Page 5:

Anthony Michael Sneed, at Molly Crabapple’s studio, New York City, May 22, 2011, Photography by Jonathan Grassi


Page 6:

“Eastern Sunrise,” Artwork by Anthony Michael Sneed / Courtesy of Anthony Michael Sneed

Page 7:

“Wodd,” Artwork by Anthony Michael Sneed / Courtesy of Anthony Michael Sneed

Page 8:

Barnaby Whitfield, at Molly Crabapple’s studio, New York City, May 22, 2011, Photography by Jonathan Grassi

Page 9:

Barnaby Whitfield, at Molly Crabapple’s studio, New York City, May 22, 2011, Photography by Jonathan Grassi

Page 10:

“Lil Deaths,” Artwork by Barnaby Whitfield / Courtesy of Barnaby Whitfield

Page 11:

“Bird Girl,” Artwork by Barnaby Whitfield / Courtesy of Barnaby Whitfield

Page 12:

Molly Crabapple, at her studio, New York City, May 22, 2011, Photography by Jonathan Grassi

Page 13:

“The Box, 4th Anniversary,” Artwork by Molly Crabapple / Courtesy of Molly Crabapple

Page 14:

“Dorian Deconstructed 1 & 2,” Artwork by Molly Crabapple / Courtesy of Molly Crabapple

Page 15:

Nyugen Smith, at Molly Crabapple’s studio, New York City, May 22, 2011, Photography by Jonathan Grassi

Page 16:

“Allocating Resources for the Independence,” Photography courtesy of Nyugen Smith via Photo Assistant, Wenye Fang

Page 17:

“The General Feels At Home,” Artwork by Nyugen Smith / Courtesy of Nyugen Smith

Page 18:

“To The Kapitol Everybody Come Image,” Artwork by Nyugen Smith / Courtesy of Nyugen Smith

Page 19:

Tara McPherson, at Molly Crabapple’s studio, New York City, May 22, 2011, Photography by Jonathan Grassi

Page 20:

“Flying Bunny,” Artwork by Tara McPherson / Courtesy of Tara McPherson

Page 21:

“Elephant,” Artwork by Tara McPherson / Courtesy of Tara McPherson

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